Award-winning author, Onjali Raúf, was announced yesterday as the new Writer in Residence for BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. She takes over from picture book writer Smriti Halls.
Raúf’s titles include The Boy at the Back of the Class, in which a young boy from Syria is befriended by his classmates in the UK; The Star Outside My Window, which features the theme of domestic violence; The Night Bus Hero, which contains themes of bullying and homelessness; and her 2020 World Book Day title follow up to The Boy at the Back of the Class, The Day We Met the Queen.
The BookTrust Writer/Illustrator in Residence project has been running since March 2009 and previous holders of the role have been Cressida Cowell, Sita Brahmachari, Patrick Ness, Polly Dunbar, Bali Rai, Matt Haig, Laura Dockrill, Chris Riddell, Sarah McIntyre, Philip Ardagh, Taran Matharu, Nadia Shireen, Candy Gourlay, Phil Earle, Ed Vere and Smriti Halls. The residency encourages each writer or illustrator to explore topics that they are passionate about, with past residents exploring themes such as the power of stories, diversity in children’s literature and the importance of libraries.
Onjali is the founder of the NGO Making Herstory (a women’s rights organisation tackling the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond) and of O’s Refugee Aid Team (which provides support for refugee families surviving in Calais and Dunkirk). Rauf will be using her time as BookTrust’s Writer in Residence to highlight literary inspirations related to a different issue each month – from human rights and the environment, to poverty and racism.
Talking about her residency, Raúf said: “I have always wondered what being a ‘writer in residence’ actually means, and can hardly believe that I now get to find out thanks to the generous hearts at BookTrust – an organisation filled with so many cool bookworms, it makes being a bona fide book-anything cool too!”